from “Preparedness Principles” Barbara Salsbury

Food Storage Rotation


How old is too old?

Keeping food dry, cool, and protected from light is the key to proper storage. The less light, heat and moisture food is exposed to, the longer its shelf life will be. The optimal canned and dry food storage conditions are: Cool – between 35 and 70 degrees. Dry – at 50 – 70% humidity. If you store food in less than these optimum conditions, it must be used sooner.

“Contact with botulinum toxin can be fatal whether it is ingested or enters through the skin. Avoid contact with suspect foods or liquids.” 

Checklist for Food Safety

If any of these signs of spoilage are present, throw the food out without tasting it!

  1. Bulging can or lid – in older bottled food, the lid will be concave and the seal cannot be lifted with fingers. Cans purchased in stores will bulge on the ends. If food explodes when opened, discard.
  2. A milky appearance to the liquid – in older foods the food may begin to deteriorate, forming a residue in the bottom of the jar or can. This is not an indication the food is bad, just old. The liquid may appear cloudy due to the sloughed off food, but the appearance should not be milky.
  3. Corrosion on the inside or outside of the can, especially along the seam.
  4. Rust, especially along the seam or seal of a can; dents compromise seal integrity.
  5. Slimy appearance or texture.
  6. Rancid odor, especially in foods which contain any amount of fat; or hisses loudly when opened.
  7. Mold growth on the food or inside the container.
  8. Frozen can or bottle – freezing produces hairline fractures in the seal and allows spoilage to begin.
  9. Off smell – food generally changes in odor as it ages. If the smell has developed to point where it is unpleasant, discard the food.
  10. Home caned food processed improperly – if improper processing times, methods and/or recipes were used for home canned vegetables and meats, the jar may be sealed but the product inside may be deadly. Do not taste! Throw it out!

Storage Rotation Methods

Using and replenishing your storage should become a commonplace, everyday activity. Whenever you are ready to plan a meal, you pull food from your pantry (also known as your three month supply).

With the exception of canned milk – food doesn’t need to be rotated (turned over to rotate food inside). Canned milk condenses on bottom and becomes thick. You should turn it over. It has a shelf life of a year, so don’t buy more than you will use in that time. And shake it from time to time.

Use the oldest food first. When you buy new food, it goes behind what is already on the shelf. Use a marker or stickers and date everything you put on the shelf.


  • Use slanted shelves that automatically roll the food to the front and load from the back.
  • Use a 3×5 card box – list on a 3×5 card each item in your food storage. Place all the cards in the box alphabetically and place it in your food storage area. Each time you take an item out of storage, take the card and place it into an envelope taped to the inside of your kitchen pantry. Once a month, take out the cards in the envelope and add them to your grocery list. After you have purchased the items, replace the cards in the box in food storage area.
  • Inventory Check list – Fill out your food storage inventory checklist using a pencil. Attach the pages to a clipboard and hang it in your food storage area. When removing or adding an item, erase the old amount and enter the new amounts in the correct column. Review your list at the end of each month to determine any items you need to replace.
  • Post It Notes – Keep a pad of sticky notes near the area where you keep your food. Whenever you pull something out of food storage to make a recipe, write the item on the sticky pad. Then when it is time to go shopping, peel the sheet off and add these items to your grocery list.
  • Circle Stickers – Buy colored stickers to put on canned and boxed food. Choose a different color for each year. Stick one of each color on inside of pantry door with the year written on it.

What techniques do you use to keep up with your food storage?

Billie Nicholson, Editor
April 2017

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